The alcohol industry is slowly normalizing everyday alcohol use in Sweden. A new survey shows, Swedes’ attitude towards weekday alcohol use has gotten more permissive since 2015.
Novus conducted the survey on behalf of Systembolaget’s subsidiary IQ. It is based on interviews from 4,020 people, 16 years and older, conducted between May 15 to 31. This is the sixth year the survey is being conducted.
In 2015, 40% of survey respondents viewed weekday alcohol use permissively. Since then, the figure has steadily increased. Last year 44% viewed weekday alcohol use as normal and this year half of respondents said they cosnidered weekday alcohol use as normal.
The trends show elderly Swedes over the age of 75 years are the least permissive to weekday alcohol use. However, the change in attitude is also biggest for this age group.
While the youngest Swedes were usually the most permissive in previous years, this is not the case in 2021. The latest survey showed those born in the late 1990s and early 2000s viewed weekday alcohol use less favorably than previous generations of the corresponding age. Young men are increasingly becoming less permissive while young women are becoming more permissive to weekday alcohol use.
On the other hand, those who were born in the 1980s and early 1990s had the most permissive attitude to weekday alcohol use.
The pandemic did not affect most (64%) of the Swedes’ opinion on weekday alcohol use. However, for those who did change their opinion on everyday alcohol use during the pandemic, it has become more normalized. This belief was prominent for those under the age of 24 who use alcohol over twice a week.
Big Alcohol pushing their products on women and youth: Not a coincidence
It is not a coincidence that young women are becoming more permissive to weekday alcohol use. Big alcohol aggressively markets alcohol to women, attempting to normalize alcohol among young women, positioning alcohol as a gender equalizer and exploiting the feminist movement.
Since the youngest generations are moving away from alcohol, the alcohol industry pushes their products through various new marketing strategies, such as the RTDs and misleading ‘wellness’ or ‘better-for-you’ alcohol products.
The goal of alcohol marketing is to increase alcohol sales by normalizing this harmful product. Alcohol marketing strengthens the alcohol norm and increases alcohol use. Thus, increasing sales and profits of the alcohol industry at the cost of people’s health. There is mounting evidence linking alcohol marketing to increased alcohol use, earlier initiation, and heavy/binge alcohol use.
The alcohol burden in Sweden
In Sweden, new data published by Folkhälsomyndigheten (the Swedish Public Health Agency) shows that between 1995 and 2020 overall alcohol sales have increased. In 2020, during the pandemic, restaurant sales decreased, while retail sales of alcohol increased.
Ultimately, the people in Sweden have to bear the burden of alcohol industry practices which normalize alcohol, increase sales, and harms.
The Annual Alcohol Report by Systembolaget showed, as per analysis by Ramboll, that the total cost of alcohol-related health and medical care in Sweden amounts to almost SEK 4.2 billion (approx. US$ 488 million) annually. These costs do not include primary care or substance use disorder care in the social services.
It is estimated that 5% of the public disease burden in Sweden is caused by alcohol products. This includes conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, mental illness, overweight and obesity, and infertility.
Swedish children are widely affected by alcohol harm, specifically during the pandemic according to the BRIS (Children’s Rights Society) report for 2020.
Adults/household alcohol use has increased during the pandemic, leading to children feeling more anxious, depressed and scared in their homes. Closure of schools due to the pandemic meant the usually safe spaces and support available for children disappeared